A New Challenge

First there were critters.

Around the end of November, Our Best Friend started going mad barking and pawing at the walls. That always means one thing: critters have invaded our home. In the past, we caught a few in traps, and after a week or so OBF’s barking and scratching drove them away. This time, they kept a’coming. I was woken repeatedly at night by OBF attacking the lazy susan under the counter in the kitchen. There’s a hole for the plumbing right next to it, and the critters were marching upstairs and straight into the paws (and, on one memorable occasion, the jaws) of Our Best Friend. The numbers killed reached an all-time high of four or five.

Then, at the beginning of December, I came downstairs and heard a funny hissing noise coming from the powder room tucked into the large room we called “the office.” In the five years we’ve owned this house, I think we’ve actually used that powder room twice, as it was old and decrepit and there was a much nicer bathroom down the hall. So I had to shift the boxes blocking the door to open it and see what was happening.

It was raining. A pinhole leak had formed in a pipe in the ceiling, and it had been spraying the bathroom for quite some time. I called the plumber; I called the insurance company. The plumber fixed the leak, and the insurance company sent a demolition team to take apart everything affected by the water damage.

Meanwhile, I still had critters, which I believed were mice. So while the floors in the basement were open, I called Kelvin the Exterminator to survey the situation.

“These aren’t mice,” he told me. “These are rats.” And to prove it, he found a dead one on the floor of the furnace room, nestled against the wall. What I had mistaken for mice, because of their size, were actually baby rats. And they’d left a hell of a mess under the floors and the crawl space under the stairs, ’cause baby rats don’t wear diapers.

The destruction of the powder room was actually serendipitous timing. The exterminator told me to I needed a plumber to snake a camera through the plumbing to make sure the backflow valves were working. Normally they would need to remove the toilet and replace it for this job, so that was one step out of the way. Turns out I had two backflow valves, both of which were broken, allowing the rats entry through the sewers. One valve, located under the office floor, connected to the now-defunct powder room. The other, under the hall floor, connected to the washing machine, the sink in the other bathroom, and the shower.

The toilet in the big bathroom was connected to…. nothing. It had simply been placed on the floor, improperly connected to the plumbing, and over the course of 2o+ years, had rotted out the entire floor.

I could either sell the house as is or fix it. Again, by serendipitous timing (I like that word), we were transferring our mortgage from one bank to another, and took out extra to cover the work. I saved a bit by not rebuilding the powder room, removing the need to repair that valve. To repair the second, the entire bathroom floor as well as a great chunk of hallway needed to go. Once the floor went, so did the rest of the bathroom, which always smacked of 1973, even though it was built in the ’80s. Now I have an enlarged, open space to act as a family room and personal office, a new bathroom, a new ceramic floor in the hallway from beginning to end (covering the holes under the washing machine where the rats used to play hide’n’ go seek [guess who was It]), and fresh, light beige paint over what used to be hideous Pepto-Bismol pink. It looks beautiful, cozy, clean, and new.

What do you think this looks like to a dog?

What do you think this looks like to a dog?

Naturally, there’s a problem. And here it is:

What used to be hidden in the wall of the powder room now lies exposed: a support beam. Alone in a big open space. Imagine the temptation this poses to a dog who hasn’t been allowed downstairs in almost a year, after he started treating the office (and guest room!) as his personal latrine. The evening after the carpet was laid and the renovation basically complete, I cautiously brought him down, on his training leash. He literally wet himself with excitement– fortunately on the tile and not the carpet, but also, not so fortunately, on my foot.

Last Saturday night, the kids and I all came down to the finally-finished family room, me at my desk writing an essay, them on the carpet, playing on their iPads. And upstairs, alone, Our Best Friend howled like a wolf. Wasn’t even a full moon.

“Leave him upstairs,” said the Eldest. “Can’t we have one room in the house without dog fur?”

Even the Middle Child, usually OBF’s BFF, agreed. “There should be a place in the house the dog isn’t allowed.” Then she added, “He’s getting annoying.”

Who raised these children? Wasn’t me.

Only the Youngest couldn’t stand the sounds of sadness emanating from above. So she brought him down. And the floor was wet again. But less so. P1070128

But all week, it was just me and him . On Monday, I came down alone, listened to the crying, then went and rescued him from his loneliness. I have restricted him to the floor by the door to the garage. Doesn’t he look sad?

So hence the new challenge. On one hand, the dog is part of the family, and thus deserves access to the family room. On the other hand, this carpet was a lot of money, and I really don’t feel like scrubbing dog pee (and worse) out of it on a constant basis.

Any training tips greatly appreciated.

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About one person's view

I'm the mother of three girls, three cats, and a dog. All need constant attention, but only the dog likes to go for long walks!
This entry was posted in children, Dog behaviour, Dog training, pet ownership, Renovations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A New Challenge

  1. Wow, that’s quite a lot of news in one post. Glad you came out of it with some nice house decor.

    We recently had rats too. And Honey was not the hunter YBF is. She looked at him curiously as he scampered across the floor. After several weeks of trying live traps, we reluctantly used the lethal ones.

    So for trying to protect your family, YBF deserves to enjoy the family room with you.

    Do you have a crate? And would the dog use it? If so, that would probably be the safest way to have him with you in the room without worrying about him soiling the carpet.

  2. No crate– can’t even imagine him being willing to step in one. The whole situation is so frustrating because he didn’t pee downstairs for the first 2 or 3 years we had him– it’s a recent development. I want to be able to leave the door to the basement open, and I can’t risk it. 😦

  3. Jodi says:

    Your new space looks great!

    Like you I’d want my BF with me. If a crate is out of the question, what about an Xpen? I’ve heard they can be beneficial. My question would be why is he urinating down there? Is it his age or excitement? And he doesn’t urinate anywhere else in the house? It sounds to me like he wants those rats to know that it is his territory. I guess I need more info. 🙂

    • He started peeing down there after we babysat Blackie. In her old age, she started going downstairs (both at her home and here) to express her displeasure with… whatever. Once she did it, he did it, I guess to cover her scent… and then he didn’t stop. Don’t know why he started in the guest room, though. 😦

  4. Kristine says:

    I was just about to suggest a crate myself until I saw Pamela’s comment. I do think it’s possible to have him down there with you without him peeing on the floor. But it would probably require managing his freedom and slowly giving him more access. If a crate won’t work how about an ex-pen? Or a baby gate?

    Otherwise, if you are content to having him remain upstairs, is there something you could give him to occupy his time up there, like a Kong, so he doesn’t whine as much when he is alone? Also, and I hate to say it, but as awful as it is to listen to, eventually he will realize his whining is getting him nowhere and calm down when you leave him to go downstairs. As long as you don’t give in to him, that is. 😉

    Good luck! The new space looks pretty fantastic!

    • He’s not so distractable– he has to be with his people. That Kong would have to have a live squirrel in it. And I do let him whine. I draw the line at howling because I can’t afford to lose my tenants. 😉

      I’ve been taking him down with me for the last number of days, and he’s learning to stay on the floor. Not ready to leave the basement door open for him to come and go freely, though.

      And now, after you suggested it AND Jodi suggested it… what’s an ex-pen?

  5. The smell of dog urine is very hard to get out of carpet. Even if we can’t smell it, they likely still can, and once a place smells like pee…
    So my two suggestions would be first to use an enzymatic cleaner on the floor downstairs. (Nature’s Miracle is the one we use.) The enzymes will break up the pee smell that the dog sense but you can’t. And second, take OBF outside for a potty break right before you bring him downstairs. Praise him just like you would if you were in the early stages of potty training.

    An ex-pen is an exercise pen. Basically it lets you create a fenced in area, no matter where you are. You can use it to create a space of OBF in the basement that is his. It will be bigger than a crate (and no roof), but still keep him in a small area where he is unlikely to want to pee because he won’t be able to get away from it.
    I will note that if he is a jumper, it might not work very well. We tried an ex-pen with Larry and June and would always come home to find Larry roaming free.

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